Why do active kids develop knee pain?

Children who are active during their growth spurt may develop sites of pain particularly in the knees and heels of the feet. This is often due to the high load and intensity of certain sports such as gymnastics, running and soccer which then leads to an increase in mechanical stress on the joints and surrounding muscles.
Knee pain that is associated with active youth during a period of rapid growth is often diagnosed as Osgood Schlatter disease (OSD).

What is the cause of this type of knee pain?

During a period of rapid growth, the thigh bone lengthens at a faster rate than the quadriceps muscle and its tendons resulting in an increased pull on the muscle attachment at the growth plate of the lower leg. Repetitive loading of the muscle during sport can then cause micro lesions where the quadriceps tendon (end of the quadriceps muscle) attaches to the growth plate on the lower leg (tibia) just below the knee cap. This results in pain and inflammation presenting as a painful lump below the kneecap.

Signs that your child may be experiencing OSD

• Knee pain at or below the kneecap
• Knee pain which is worse during or immediately after activity
• Knee pain with repetitive bending or when sitting with the knees in a bent position
• Improved symptoms with rest or a reduction in activity load
Sports such as gymnastics, soccer, basketball and volleyball are often commonly associated with the development of this type of knee pain.

How long will this knee pain last?

Symptoms of OSD can last for 6-12 months and are often worse over a period of rapid growth. Complete recovery often occurs once the long bones stop lengthening and closure of the growth plate occurs.

How can I help ease my pain at home?
• Relative rest from the activity/exercise you are participating in – this can be guided by your physiotherapist to help manage your exercise load and aid in a quicker recovery
• Ice +/- anti inflammatory medication if needed
• Stretching the leg muscles
• Bracing/taping of the patella tendon

Association between heel pain and knee pain in active youth

Onset of Sever’s disease (a type of heel pain) is also a risk factor for OSD. Sever’s often occurs at an earlier developmental stage than OSD and therefore active youth who develop Sever’s disease are often likely to be at risk of developing OSD. It is therefore important that adolescents with Sever’s disease consider interventions to prevent the onset of OSD. It is possible to have both conditions at the same time.

Why should I consider seeing a physiotherapist for my childs knee pain?

Physiotherapy interventions in Osgood Schlatter disease aim to reduce pain, improve function and aid in a quicker return to sport. A physiotherapy consult will involve a thorough assessment of the presenting knee pain, discussions about sport and training regimes and from this, formulation of an individualised rehab plan for a return to pre injury level of function.
If you or your friend/family member is complaining of knee pain, book an appointment with one of our physios for a thorough assessment and active management plan to help prevent onset, reduce severity of pain and avoid a recurrence of pain in the future.